Poetry Review: “Crow’s Theology” by Ted Hughes

Regular readers of this space know that MontanaWriter has been featuring poems about crows.

CrowNo collection of crow poems would be complete without at least one poem by Ted Hughes… without several poems by him. Hughes is one of the truly “great” poets of our time. With Seamus Heaney, he is one of only a handful of late-20th Century poets that will still be read 100, 200, 300 years from now.

Crows  feature prominently in Hughes’ poetry, as do a number of other creatures. Hughes is a poet of nature. But nature in an Old World way, not a New World way. Animals inhabit his poetry as real and earthy but also as mythological and metaphorical beings.

“Crow’s Theology” comes from his excellent little volume of poems appropriately entitled Crow: The Life and Songs of the Crow. The poems of Crow are highly theological. Published in 1970, Hughes wrote most of the poems during the years following Sylvia Plath’s death. Theologically and artistically then, they have often been read as poems showing an artist – and man – trying to find his artistic and emotional center again after a great loss. Hughes himself viewed them later,  as bridges to his later work.

On another cool February day, a Ted Hughes “crow poem” seems like just the thing.

Enjoy!

Crow’s Theology 
Crow realized God loved him-
Otherwise, he would have dropped dead.
So that was proved.
Crow reclined, marvelling, on his heart-beat.

And he realized that God spoke Crow-
Just existing was His revelation.

But what Loved the stones and spoke stone?
They seemed to exist too.
And what spoke that strange silence
After his clamour of caws faded?

And what loved the shot-pellets 
That dribbled from those strung-up mummifying crows? 
What spoke the silence of lead? 

Crow realized there were two Gods- 

One of them much bigger than the other 
Loving his enemies 
And having all the weapons. 

 

Listening with a pencil and my ear, these are the lines I marked:

Crow realized there were two Gods- 

One of them much bigger than the other 
Loving his enemies 
And having all the weapons.

This poems expresses the issue of theodicy as well as any poem I know.  These particular lines highlight the mysterious nature of faith in the face of physical and moral evil.

 

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